The CABI-led Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE), which uses space-age technology to provide farmers with an early warning of potentially devastating pest outbreaks, has featured at the UK-Africa Investment Summit 2020 in London.
Charlotte Day, Project Manager for PRISE, and other CABI colleagues outlined at the Summit’s Business and Innovation Hub how the innovative system works to help farmers maximise their yields and livelihoods in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals ‘Zero Hunger’ and ‘No Poverty’.
The UK-Africa Investment Summit, which was hosted by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson MP, brought together high-level representatives from businesses, governments and international institutions, and aimed to showcase and promote the breadth and quality of investment opportunities across Africa.
The Summit will strengthen the UK’s partnership with African nations to build a secure and prosperous future for all our citizens. It will also mobilise new and substantial investment to create jobs and boost mutual prosperity.
PRISE, funded by the UK Space Agency with co-financing from the Plantwise programme, is helping farmers in Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia protect and increase their livelihoods by providing timely alerts to pest outbreaks including maize stalk borer.
The system works by using satellite data to track the crop pests before sending text message alerts to Plantwise plant doctors. They then either pass on the information to farmers in the field or through the network of plant clinics.
The plant doctors then help the farmers identify the pest before offering a range of options to manage the impact on their crop – ultimately helping them to grow more and lose less to pests and diseases, thereby increasing their yields and livelihoods.
Farmers, who have access to a mobile phone, can also receive text alerts themselves directly and can then consult a plant doctor if necessary.
Charlotte said, “An estimated 40 percent of the world’s crops are lost to pests, impacting smallholder farmers’ ability to feed their families, limiting international trade and food supply chains and hampering the pursuit of Sustainable Development Goals ‘Zero Hunger’ and ‘No Poverty.’
“Being part of the UK-Africa Investment Summit is a fantastic way of promoting to key stakeholders how the use of latest technology can not only help ensure greater food security but also enhance the livelihoods of smallholder farmers who rely upon timely pest and disease management information to protect their crops.”
Charlotte took the opportunity to report that maize farmers in Kenya, during the 2018/19 cropping season, who did not receive alerts experienced higher maize production losses with an average of 26 percent, compared to those who did receive alerts where their losses were 21 percent.
International Development Secretary Alok Sharma MP, speaking of the Summit in the Daily Telegraph (January 1, 2020) said, “Investment in businesses creates sustainable jobs. Investment in infrastructure enables children to go to school. Investment in vital public services like health and education gives young people the opportunity to shape their own futures and reach their potential. It is the difference between surviving and thriving.”
Plantwise is a global programme led by CABI, which helps farmers lose less of what they grow to plant health problems. Working closely with national agricultural advisory services, we have established a global plant clinic network, run by trained plant doctors, where farmers can find practical plant health advice. Plant clinics work just like clinics for human health: farmers visit with samples of their crops, and plant doctors diagnose the problem and make science-based recommendations on ways to manage it.
The plant clinic network is reinforced by the Plantwise Knowledge Bank, a gateway to practical online and offline plant health information, including diagnostic resources, best-practice pest management advice and plant clinic data analysis for targeted crop protection. Together, these two unique resources are part of the Plantwise approach to strengthen national plant health systems. The stronger the national plant health system, the better equipped the country will be to help farmers provide a safe and sustainable food supply and improve their livelihoods.